The mystery surrounding Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose has fascinated millions of Indians including me over the decades. It was with great interest therefore that I bought, “India’s Biggest Cover-Up” by Anuj Dhar. Considered Enemy No. 1 by the British Raj, Bose was branded a traitor for his links with Hitler ‘s Nazi Germany and the Japanese. His Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauj) founded in 1942 was portrayed as being a rag-tag bunch of losers, many of whom were Prisoners of War who changed sides to fight alongside Bose. This was the story propagated by the British but in reality they feared him more than any other prominent Indian leader of those times. We now know that Bose’s role in India getting independence with the end of the British Raj in 1947 was considerably underplayed.
Everyone has heard the story of how Bose died in a plane crash in Formosa in 1945. But did he? Painstakingly researched, Dhar’s book brings out a lot of new insights. He questions whether it really was Bose who was in that plane crash, and whether the plane actually crashed in the manner described till now. The truth of what really happened in that Mitsubishi Ki-21 bomber on August 18, 1945 may never fully be known. Did Bose die at the Taipei Army Hospital that same evening? Or was the person who died not Bose but somebody else?
This book covers a lot of ground starting with Bose’s early years in politics. He left the prestigious Indian Civil Service to fight for India’s independence and over the years rose to become the President of the Indian National Congress. He quit the Congress to start his Forward Bloc when he found himself in serious disagreement with the way Gandhi and Nehru approached the means to get independence from the British. It was Bose who called for Purna Swaraj or Complete Independence in the late 1920s, not being satisfied with India being accorded Dominion status. Dhar writes of Bose’s forming the Indian National Army and fighting the British in South East Asia along side the Japanese and of his trip to muster support from Mussolini and Hitler believing as he did that his enemy’s enemies were his friends.
For the most part, the book studies the various Commissions appointed over the decades to investigate the circumstances surrounding Bose’s “death.” Dhar highlights the inconsistencies displayed frequently by some of the key people in these commissions who either sought to curry favour with the ruling Congress Party and/or were victims of their own biases against Bose.
A lot of matter was buried in the archives and some of it is not traceable to date hence the title, “India’s Biggest Cover-Up.” Successive Governments in India chose not to re-open the Bose story for political reasons. Perhaps the Bose story became more and more mysterious with the passage of time because years after his “death” there were reports of sightings of Bose in different parts of the world! Most fascinating of all, was Bose the Gumnami Baba who lived in Faizabad near Ayodhya for several decades till he died in 1985?
You must remember that Dhar wrote this book before 100 files pertaining to Netaji Subhas Bose were finally declassified by Narendra Modi’s Government in January 2016. More material has flowed into the public domain as a consequence.
Dhar’s research needs to be commended in this extremely well-written book. He and his fellow researchers had to face many obstacles especially from the bureaucracy when they tried to dig deeper into the Bose Mystery.
Here’s one real life story which is more mysterious, more shocking, and more sensational than most fiction. Highly recommended.